When I first began writing in health and science journalism, my biggest “micro-beat” was vaccines (and still is). I had spent more than a year in graduate school reading up on vaccines and interviewing dozens of folks in the field or tangential to it (such as parents and advocates) before I published any substantive articles about vaccines for a publication.
I was fortunate to be able to spend that time diving so deep into a single area, but it also gave me a deep appreciation for the areas I would not want to cover without being able to spend a similar amount of time studying up on them first. For years after I began working as a full-time journalist, that included anything in oncology.
Initially in my career, writing about cancer research was intimidating because I knew how much time I’d invested in building foundational knowledge about vaccines. I knew I’d need a similar foundational knowledge to write broadly about cancer research, so I avoided it. I finally began venturing into covering cancer a few years ago when I began writing for Cure Magazine.
The features at that publication are tightly focused on a single element about a single cancer, so I could research a single “micro topic” deeply and then confidently report on it without feeling like I needed to know “everything about cancer.” Over time, as I wrote each new article there, the deep dives about micro topics began to connect to one another, like tunnels underground. Slowly, I built a knowledge base that now enables me to report on cancer research without feeling lost among the mechanisms, treatments, terminology, acronyms and more.
Some of the resources I would have found most helpful during that time, had I known about them, were glossaries about cancer terms, drugs, acronyms and trials. A new entry in the Data section of the Medical Studies core topic now provides a list of those resources.
Whether it’s your first or 50th time reporting on cancer, these resources are likely to be helpful.